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The Canada report

By JIM FOX

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000


Expert: Dollar could drop to 60 cents U.S.

Canada's colorful currency is about to nose-dive to 60 cents U.S., a leading economist predicts.

Jeff Rubin, chief economist with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce World Markets, blames a downturn in global growth.

In a report called "Heading for 60 Cents," Rubin said the dollar could hit the new low in 12 to 18 months, dropping from its current level of 65 cents U.S. -- the lowest in about two years.

"The dollar's recent performance is all the more worrisome given its broader context," Rubin said.

The beleaguered buck should be worth much more because the economy is growing at its fastest pace in 10 years, the Canadian government has just paid down $12-billion of its debt and there's a record trade surplus of $50-billion, he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jean Chretien said the dollar is "decided in the marketplace and I don't comment on the fluctuation of the currency."

Rubin said rising energy prices are dampening global growth while prices for other Canadian commodities are weakening, including an expected lower U.S. demand for Canadian-built automobiles.

The dollar's low was 63.31 cents U.S. during the Asian crisis of 1998.

Health care a key issue

Health care has emerged as the top issue in the campaign for the Nov. 27 Canadian election.

Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day and Conservative leader Joe Clark are reminding voters that Chretien's Liberals cut back health funding.

Chretien said, however, his government reached an agreement with the provinces last month to add $21-billion into health care improvements nationally.

The latest Environics Research poll shows the Liberals with 45 percent support, the Alliance at 29 percent, Bloc Quebecois with 11 percent, and the Conservatives and New Democratic each with 7 percent.

In brief

The deaths of two Ontario teenagers might result in companies participating in high school job-shadowing programs with their parents facing higher insurance rates or no more kids at work, insurers say. Rob Fulbrook and Amanda Peat, both 14, were killed while driving in a utility vehicle that crashed into a truck at the John Deere plant in Welland.

Ontario's Conservative government is planning sweeping changes to labor laws despite criticism from union leaders. The proposed changes include the posting of information on how to get rid of a union as well as mandatory cooling-off periods between union organizing drives.

An international search is on for Roman "Ron" Koval and his wife, Loren, both 49, accused of fleeing Canada with about $50-million missing from their new King's Health Center in Toronto. Investors were told it would be Canada's version of the Mayo Clinic. Police think the couple are trying to evade capture aboard a yacht off the U.S. East Coast and are headed for Panama.

Facts and figures

Canada's jobless rate edged higher last month to 6.9 percent from 6.8 percent a month earlier although 52,000 full-time jobs were created, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

The Canadian dollar is worth 65.24 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.5328 in Canadian money, before exchange fees.

Canadian stock markets are slowly coming back after a record 840-point drop on the Toronto market Oct. 25. Toronto's 300 Index was 9,720 points Friday while the Canadian Venture Exchange index was 3,316 points.

There's no change in the Bank of Canada key interest rate of 6 percent or the 7.5 percent prime lending rate.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 9, 13, 21, 23, 36 and 47; bonus 15. (Oct. 28) 3, 10, 23, 40, 43 and 46; bonus 42.

Regional briefs

The Quebec government has ended an illegal truckers' strike at the Port of Montreal that left 10,000 containers holding $500-million in goods on wharves. A bill was passed Thursday outlawing strikers from delaying or stopping trucks at the port and throughout Quebec. Two rival unions are in a dispute to represent non-unionized, independent truckers who move containers at the busy terminals.

After spending 16 years in prison for killing his wife, former Saskatchewan Cabinet minister Colin Thatcher has grown humbler and more subdued and should be allowed to apply for early parole, psychologist Robert Ley told a court hearing. Thatcher was sentenced in 1984 to life in prison with no parole for at least 25 years. The hearing continues.

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